How much time do doctors spend providing care to each child in the ED? A time and motion study.

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The total time per patient doctors spend providing care in emergency departments (EDs) has implications for the development of evidence-based ED staffing models. We sought to measure the total time taken by doctors to assess and manage individual paediatric patients presenting to two EDs in the Western Cape, South Africa and to compare these averages to the estimated benchmarks used regionally to calculate ED staffing allocations.We conducted a cross-sectional, observational study applying time and motion methodology, using convenience sampling. Data were collected over a 5-week period from 11 December 2015 to 18 January 2016 at Khayelitsha District Hospital Emergency Centre and Tygerberg Hospital Paediatric Emergency and Ambulatory Unit. We assessed total doctor time for each patient stratified by acuity level using the South African Triage Scale.Care was observed for a total of 100 patients. Median age was 21 months (IQR 8-55). Median total doctor time per patient (95% CI) was 31 (22 to 38), 39 (31 to 63), 48 (32 to 63) and 96 (66 to 122) min for triage categories green, yellow, orange and red, respectively. Median timing was significantly higher than the estimated local benchmark for the lowest acuity ‘green’ triage category (31 min (22 to 38) vs 15 min; p=0.001) and the highest acuity ‘red’ category (96 min (66 to 122) vs 50 min; p=0.002).Doctor time per patient increased with increasing acuity of triage category and exceeded estimated benchmarks for the highest and lowest acuities. The distinctive methodology can easily be extended to other settings and populations.

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Authors: Robert Stellman, Andrew Redfern, Sa’ad Lahri, Tonya Esterhuizen, Baljit Cheema